Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen have been announced as the new driver line-up for Lotus F1 Racing for 2010. A number of drivers had been mentioned as potential Lotus drivers, including 1997 world champ Jacques Villeneuve, but in the end Lotus opted for two drivers who are both experienced and currently active in F1, as opposed to taking on an F1 retread, such as Villeneuve, or an absolute rookie.
As reported in The Times, Kovalainen indicated that he had several options available to him for next year, but he chose Lotus because he had faith in their management team, and confidence in the team’s financial support.
“For me there were a couple of major factors – Tony and Mike being the two leading figures in the project, and the backing behind the team were both very important,” the Finn said. “Having spoken to both of them I became aware that the whole operation has a lot of potential, and a very good chance of being a successful team in the future. I saw Lotus F1 Racing as the best choice for me to progress my career, after considering several other options that were available to me. I have visited the base of the team, as well as meeting Tony and Mike, and I can see that everyone involved is very motivated, excited and happy to be pushing this programme forwards.”
While Lotus is regarded as a privateer outfit, the team is owned by an investment consortium that includes Sepang International Circuit (which hosts the Malaysian GP), Naza Motors, AirAsia (founded by Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes) and Proton (the company that now owns Lotus Cars).
The official nomenclature for the team is Lotus F1 Racing. The rights to the more familiar marque, Team Lotus, are owned by David Hunt, brother of the late world champion James Hunt.
As for Jarno Trulli, there had been some speculation recently that he was considering a switch to NASCAR. He went so far as to participate in an extensive test session with the Michael Waltrip team (along with former F1 driver Mika Salo), but ultimately this proved to be just a one-off experiment rather than preparation for a career change.